The life of a suicidal teenage girl will be put seriously at risk if no hospital bed can be found for her within days, Britain’s most senior family law judge has claimed.
In a hard-hitting ruling, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said we would have “blood on our hands” if the situation was not resolved quickly.
The 17 year-old, referred to as ‘ZX’, has already made a number of attempts on her life and requires psychiatric treatment when she is released from a secure unit later this month. But, at the time of the ruling, no places had been found in any suitable NHS mental health facilities.
Due to her age, ZX could not be placed in care, not could she remain in youth custody because suitable treatment is not available in secure units either.
The case came before Sir James at a rare High Court hearing outside London, in Manchester. The veteran judge was forthright in his description of the situation, referring to it as an “outrage” and denouncing the “disgraceful and utterly shaming lack of proper provision in this country of the clinical, residential and other support services”.
He had coordinated efforts to find the teen the treatment she required but, said the President:
“I might as well have been talking to myself in the middle of the Sahara”.
“We are, even in these times of austerity, one of the richest countries in the world. Our children and young people are our future. X is part of our future. It is a disgrace to any country with pretensions to civilisation, compassion and, dare one say it, basic human decency, that a judge in 2017 should be faced with the problems thrown up by this case and should have to express himself in such terms.”
“If this is the best we can do for X, and others in similar crisis, what right do we, what right do the system, our society and indeed the state itself, have to call ourselves civilised?”
Clearly moved by the girl’s plight, the President said he felt shame at being unable to do more for her:
“…shame, as a human being, as a citizen and as an agent of the state; embarrassment as president of the family division and, as such, head of family justice”.
In order to ensure attention was paid to the ruling, Sir James ordered that copies of the ruling be sent to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Education Secretary Justine Greening and Justice Secretary David Lidington. An additional copy was to be sent to the chief executive of the NHS England, The Guardian reports.
The ruling is available here.